Students can succeed at any age

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Nontraditional Student Adviser Maria Jimenez in session with nursing freshman Luis Oblitas Sept. 13 in the Empowerment Center. Jimenez founded the Nontraditional Students Club here at SAC in 2011 to help older students who have trouble adjusting to college.    Photo by Brandon A. Edwards

Nontraditional Student Adviser Maria Jimenez in session with nursing freshman Luis Oblitas Sept. 13 in the Empowerment Center. Jimenez founded the Nontraditional Students Club here at SAC in 2011 to help older students who have trouble adjusting to college. Photo by Brandon A. Edwards

Adviser, former student offer tips in time management, registration and connections.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

zwright9@student.alamo.edu

Students who are classified as nontraditional because they are older than 25 often have feelings of isolation, frustration with registration and problems with time management, said Maria Jimenez, certified adviser at services for women and nontraditional students, or SWANS.

She should know.

Jimenez, who graduated from this college in 2011 with an associate degree in public administration, founded the Nontraditional Students Club.

At 50, she enrolled here after losing her job as a sales manager in 2005 because the company was bought out. She had only six more years to retire.

Jimenez offered advice to students having a difficult time balancing work, home and family life — especially feeding that family.

“What worked for me was always my kitchen timer, a crockpot and paper plates,” Jimenez said.

Dr. Savithra Eratne, director of institutional research, said the average age of a student on campus was 24.2 last fall.

Eratne said most students currently enrolled — 5,971 of 20,638 students —are between 19 and 21 years old.

Dr. Helen Vera, SWANS director, said students who are more mature than their peers feel ostracized the first few weeks of class.

“I think probably the isolation,” Vera said of their main concern. “You know, it feels different. You feel different at the beginning. That’s what we hear.”

However, she offered words of hope for students who feel isolated by their maturity.

“Usually, if they get beyond those first few weeks, you find that it’s not that much different. They start connecting with people,” Vera said. “You just have to tough it out and, again, stay connected.”

According to Jimenez, many older students experience frustration when attempting to register for classes.

“The navigation, alone, through the colleges,” Jimenez said. “Oh, you didn’t complete this process. OK, now you have to go to this other office and you need to complete this other process.”

Jimenez suggests students take a basic computer course to ensure they can work their way through the registration process and succeed in their courses.

“Now, sometimes I get a student who says, ‘I don’t know how to use a computer,’” Jimenez said.

Jimenez expressed sympathy as she described her own experience with computers as a student.

“I used to spend hours in the lab in the evening, and I would sit there until I would see a friendly face that would tell me how to turn (the computer) on,” Jimenez said. “I knew how to type because in my era we all knew how to type. I told myself, I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to learn it.’”

Jimenez explained the important role that a crash course in basic computer usage had in her success.

She said students should research adult education opportunities within their school district; according to Jimenez, these communities may offer affordable, basic computer classes for adults.

Jimenez shows that combining perseverance with local resources pays off.

She was determined to take an Internet class once she began submitting homework on Canvas; she would visit her teacher early every morning to ensure it was done properly, and if it was not, she would go to the lab and work until she got it right.

Jimenez, who graduated from Texas A&M—San Antonio with a degree in Human Relations, said there are many benefits of being an older student.

She described older students as responsible people who take notes and sit at the front of class.

She said they have valuable experience that should be shared.

“My passion is with nontraditional students, ’cause I always tell them, ‘We make awesome students,’” Jimenez said. “I think sometimes we can share our experience with younger students if they’re willing to listen.”

The SWANS office is located in the empowerment center, 703 Howard St. For more information, call 210-486-0455.

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